FTC calls Sprint on $2.9 million risk-based pricing violation

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Two people walk into a deli and both order a pastrami on rye. When the check arrives, one is charged $8. The other is surprised to get a bill for $15.99. That’s not the start of an old Henny Youngman joke. It’s an analogy that raises some of the issues in the FTC’s proposed $2.95 million settlement with Sprint for allegedly charging customers with lower credit scores a monthly fee without giving them the proper up-front notice required by law.

The FTC’s lawsuit centers on mobile service provider Sprint’s Account Spending Limit Program. Under the program, consumers with lower credit scores were charged a monthly fee of $7.99 on top of what they already had to pay for cell phone and data service. But here’s the thing: Many consumers didn’t know they had been “enrolled” in the program and weren’t given mandatory information that would have made it possible for them to do meaningful comparison-shopping before they were locked in. The FTC says that by tacking that extra $7.99 fee onto consumers' monthly bills without making required disclosures, Sprint violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act and its Risk-Based Pricing Rule.

Because Sprint bills consumers for services after the fact, the company is covered by the Risk-Based Pricing Rule. Under the Rule, if consumers are offered service on less favorable terms based on their credit report or credit score, the company has to inform them of that fact by giving them what the Rule calls a risk-based pricing notice.

But according to the complaint, in many cases Sprint failed to provide customers it placed in its Account Spending Limit Program with all of the required disclosures. The FTC says Sprint’s notices omitted key information necessary for consumers to determine if their lower credit scores were based on errors in their consumer reports. That’s a particularly important consideration, given FTC studies showing that credit reports often contain mistakes that can have a major impact on what people have to pay for things like cell phone service.

Sprint's timing raised concerns, too. The complaint alleges that Sprint often gave consumers the required notices too late for them to shop around for a better deal without having to cough up a hefty early termination fee.

In addition to a $2.95 million civil penalty, the proposed settlement requires Sprint to comply with the Risk-Based Pricing Rule. But that’s not all. From here on in, Sprint will have to give customers the required notice – this time, with complete information – within five days of signing up for Sprint service or by a date that gives them the ability to avoid recurring charges like those in the Account Spending Limit program. Sprint also has to send corrected risk-based pricing notices to consumers who received incomplete notices from the company.

Do your company’s practices put you at risk for a Risk-Based Pricing Rule violation? One important compliance tip: Make sure your notices give consumers all the information required by law. Read Using Consumer Reports for Credit Decisions: What to Know About Adverse Action and Risk-Based Pricing Notices for guidance.

 

Comments

I was one of those people. I noticed the charge on my first bill and spoke to them about it. They do not charge it if you agree to an auto debit (I did). Definitely did NOT know about it in advance. Other than that they have been great.

Does the settlement include rebates to affected consumers? It's not much but I'd still like a rebate on the $15.98 I paid them before it was handled.

We just received our first bill with Sprint and are shocked to see this $7.99 spending limit fee. For starters, we have a very high credit score, yet the FAQ page on Sprint's website claims that the fee resulted from information they received from a credit agency. Since our credit score is high, it seems unfair for them to require us to enroll in auto bill pay to have the spending limit fee removed. How do we participate in the settlement?

I really would like to know this too. I believe my girlfriend has gotten charged for a very long time.

I just paid my first bill and didn't even notice the $7.99 charge until now and I was very adamant about knowing everything I'd be paying for monthly before ever opening an account, which not once was anything ever mentioned about this.

Please let Me know if there's something I can do.

Thank you for this information please continue to help me.

Sprint did not cut my bill in half. It is a total hoax.
Verizon is a hoax also, they had my 3 phones sharing data without disclosing it to us.

If this is true it is long over due and thats not enough they should be charged more, when I had there service I payed $45 mtly and I think it was an extra $5 an extra for international calling so instead of paying $1.40 per min I would of been paying 35 cents and will used sprint straigt calls to call the embassy or any important calls I cannot afford to get cut off of, and I brought phone cards which came with an access number of course, the first month I used the card when the bill came I was charged for the phone call full price $1.40 I queried it with a supervisor who was telling me it is straight calls unbeknown to him Im looking at my statement online whilst speaking to him, finally I called out a number for and told him dial that number and tell me what it said he asked why, I said because its a phone card number that will tell you to enter your accessd code, he paused a bit and sigh then he said hold on Miss, and never returned. I hanged after 5 mins and called back, it was the same story again thats when I cut them off.Three weeks later a woman supervisor call to asked if I wanted a payment plan so I explained to her and she saw I was right, she then appolligize, and told me she can help me resolve the problem, but by that time I've had it with them, so I thanked her and refused the service. P.S..And I know I'm not alone!!

This is remarkable news! I have paid over $800 in these bogus fees over the last several years! Look forward to a rebate check!!!

Why don't you make this available to share on Facebook. I run an FB page for consumers and this would be helpful to them but I have to do a cut and paste which is a pain. Why not just make it sharable????
Come on - you guys do better work than this.....

I paid 800.00 last year alone in spending limit charges, and have been billed since 2008. Bogus charges.

My daughter had an account with Sprint. Problem was that every other call was lost/disconnected due to being out of range. Called Sprint multiple times and they were more concerned about my daughters smartphone that she purchased from them when she set up the account. They had her do several things with her phone, sent her an update to do one particular evening, had her keep track of the number of calls that were dropped in a given day. (Which we found out that they can pull up a log and see the dropped calls verses the ones that were not). This piece of information was found out through a phone representative who was very concerned about what was going on with my daughters service. Low and behold he found out that there was no cell phone tower in our area. We lived in a dead zone. Which meant that the phone was actually useless to my daughter. But, my question to Sprint is when they asked her address information shouldn't you think that they would have to check to see if you would even have service in your area? Why of course, not! However, this very concerned representative told my daughter that she could take everything back to Sprint by turning in her equipment and they will make her account null and void. However, 3 weeks later my daughter received a $1200 bill from Sprint. Part of the charges were for a cell phone that was not turned in. There was only one phone I said to them. They said that was correct but she never turned it in. I told my daughter, make sure you get a signed receipt for the return of the phone so the can't turn around and say they never got it. This was my intelligent daughter who received the receipt, but in her OCD way of cleaning, she threw it in the trash instead of giving it to me for filing (just in case). Well, just in case actually happened and now she will be graduating from college this year and she has this bill on her credit report which is absolutely so wrong in every sense of the game. I argued with these Sprint representatives until I was blue in the face, getting nowhere. Oh yes, they said they seen notes in the system that she lived in a dead zone and the phone was going to be returned and account was to be nullified. She went back to the Sprint store and every representative in there acted like they had never seen her face before in life. When I went in there with her, they remembered us then but they guy she gave the phone to and had given her a receipt, no longer works for the company. No notation on the account was made when the phone was retrieved from the customer. Who's at fault here? Us for not keeping our receipt or them for not following through with closing the account out when they got that phone in their hands? I will fight Sprint until the day I die. I have documentation of who I spoke to and the representative that he called at the store and relayed what was to take place when my daughter came in. She was to see a specific representative and give her phone only to him because he was the only one that knew the whole story and was told exactly what to do when the turned the phone over to them. I really think it's my fault for failing my daughter and not instructing her correctly to probably get a "zero balance" statement, showing that she didn't owe Sprint a dime. Shame on me for being a bad Mother and letting Sprint to take advantage of an unseasoned cell phone account holder. I was her first account and she learned a huge fat lessen. DO NOT TRUST ANYBODY. Get every word down in writing and never, ever throw out important paperwork.

This is why you mail devices directly to the company rather than take it to a NON CORPORATE LOCATION. Be smart.

What can be done about this? I am one of those consumers that for years they have been charging me 7.99 a month.

Thank you.

This is new to me. I have been a Sprint customer forever and within the last couple of months I have been combing through my bill and I am seeing this charge every month for 7.99 and I had no clue I was being charged this. How if I can fix this so I dont get charged for this if I can?

Hi, Victor H and SoBelt. The first step would be to contact the company, mentioning what you've learned about the $7.99 charge.

I have been a customer with Sprint for over 3 years. In May 2015 I temporarily suspended my account because I had to go abroad for work. On February 27th, 2016 I reopened my account. Today while checking my account I saw they added this fee to my bill. This was the first time ever Sprint added this fee to my bill. When I reactivated my account I was never told that they would charge me this fee.

When I called customer service I was told that they can only waive this fee if I signup for auto pay. I told them to cancel my account and refund me the $7.99. They stated they cannot refund me the $7.99.

I was with Sprint for a short period. They offered and advertised that "If you switch to Sprint, Sprint will pay your entire current/previous carrier bill (no matter the cost). I switched because Sprint offered an unlimited data plan for $60 per month. After I switched, Sprint never paid or sent me funds for the remaining balance of my previous carrier ($600 - two hundred plus for contract and three hundred early termination fees). Sprint mailed me a prepaid Sprint card for $295, and charged me $195 for cancelling my service (switching back to my previous carrier) in less than 36-39 days as stated in Sprints guidelines of terminating service. Spring also charged me the $7.99-$15.99 for low credit low. Sprint should be held accountable for misleading, false advertisements, and taking advantage of consumers with less than perfect credit.

Sprint is charging me 7.99 per every line i have [4] thats a lots of money wvery month and still i dont understand why if i qualify with my credit score

I just left my mothers account and got my own. They ran my credit while both of us were on the phone and approved me with no deposit. Not once did they say ok you will be charged a $7.99 fee each month for this account. When I get the bill I see it and get mad. The rep says "If you sign up for autopay we will waive it. GTFOH. How are you going to charge me something I knew nothing about then tell me so that you can monitor my spending on my account you are charging me for it. I can monitor my own account and if I go over then suspend and I have to pay to reinstate......I am pissed.

My account was set up through my step-dad who was a sprint employee, I had no credit check and no deposit...yet here is this fee I've been getting charged for like 8 years. I have talked to sprint about this repeatedly and no one will take it off. Now I'm told if I enroll in auto pay they will take it off...sorry no, I refuse to give them access to my account. I should not be getting this fee for not handing over my bank info.

I agree.... I have been with them for 9 years and a few years back when i realized it I asked what it was about they could not tell me.

on the phone with them now.. asked about this i have been with them for 10 yrs they wont send me info said i have to wait for their legal team and now i see why CLASS ACTION SUIT PEOPLE

What do you do with Sprint takes retribution against you?
It is unbelievable how their overseas call center tells you that there are no supervisors available to help resolve.
We have been through "absolute hell with them " !!!
I don't know what to do.
Please help !!!
As an American I have never experienced any company do what they do and no changes.
I bet the overseas call centers think it's funny.
They buy so much media that media the media advocates that are designed to help can't.
Sprint probably tells them if they run the story they will pull their millions from that news Chanel or source.
How does our government allow this ?
The millions of consumers being affected have no hope of

Too eddy2016, I complained on a sprint comment just like this one about a 7.99 charge on every line and now I cant find those charges anywhere in my billing. I thought i was going crazy! Until i read your feedback. My only question now is where did they hide those charges and what can i do about it? And who can i tell? If i where you i would make copies of those billings and start a class action lawsuit. I really think there is something there!

I just noticed that I am being charged $7.99 for the Spending Limit Program and $5.06 Sprint Surcharges, I had know idea about any of this until today. How do I participate in the settlement, I want my money back. This is robbery!!!!

You know whats silly I signed up for their service yesterday, and looked online; all was well. Today I noticed that they added it! That fee was not disclosed when i was signing up for service or anything! I think its completele bogus, and things like those fees shoud be disclosed immeadiately!

Today i noticed this 7.99 fee. Ive been with them since 2014. In order for them to waive it you uave to enroll in their auto pay and ebill program. BUT i searched and in a forum some had listed that the fee can be waived after 12 monthly on time payments. Those people also filed a complaint with the FCC and WERE able to get it removed.

I called them to remove this fee since ive payed on time and also had my credit reevaluated in December and March of this year.

I called and the person i spoke to told me that they are not able to take anyone off the ASL once they are on it they stay on it UNLESS they enroll to autopay.
This is ridiculous. I have to allow Sprint access to my account to remove a fee for a program im not required to be in?!
They were not able to tell me when this policy came into affect.
This is a ripoff
I

THIS IS NOT TRUE CALL 800-639-6116 they can waive it and can not force you to sign up for easy pay that is not legal.... they no longer will talk to me about this issue because I deal with the law and have stated many times that I was over charged for 10 long years... they will not give me information that I can hand to a lawyer but rather let their lawyers handle it no thanks.

I switched to sprint in July of 2012 and have been with them ever since. When signing all the paperwork I remember the guy mention something about a spending limit but never told me about any fee. I asked him what it was and he gave me an explanation but what he told me was nothing close to what it actually is cause i didnt understand what he was telling me at all. Well the next month i happened to be reading my whole bill due to boredom or something and noticed the fee of $7.99. Im the type of person that usually just lets stuff go cause most of the time its not worth the argument and the hour on the phone. At this point i had my phone for a little over a month and was not happy cause when i was at home i could never make a call, send a text, use my internet, and calls i did answer got dropped constantly. So i went up to the sprint store that i got my phone from and told them what was going on, he looked up where my house was on the coverage map and that area had little to no coverage, so he was able to give a device that u hook up to your computer called an Airrave which is like having your own cell tower in your house, and the problem was fixed. About a year later sprint was offering a deal where u can get a new samsung galaxy tab 4 for free if u sign it up for a data plan, and i had been looking to buy a tablet anyway so i ordered one and just got the smallest data package for $10 a month cause i have wifi at home. Well... one day a few months later im looking at my bill cause it was way higher then it should have been and i find out that not only am i being charged the $7.99 spending limit fee for my phone, but they are charging me for the Airrave and the tablet too!!! WTF SPRINT?! Ok i can be ok with the fee for my phone, and i MIGHT have even let the tablet fee go, but ur charging me a fee for a piece of equipment that is helping boost your crappy network too!! Not right! The way i see it, is its a spending limit fee for the "ACCOUNT" so shouldn't that mean it should only be charged one time regardless of how many devices are being used on the account?? Theres still only one limit!

This is redicules, Sprints violates our rights as citizens and over charge already financially struggling customers and the government gets 2.9 million dollars are we the real victims get nothing?

Sprint continues use of unethical billing practices by quoting a bottom line monthly rate for my wireless services, then adjusting those rates without any changes initiated or approved by me. When I call customer service for assistance, I have spent up to 3 hours on the phone. Being on hold or awaiting transfer to supervisors equipped to help. This has gone on for a year. It's as if they are trying to wear me down, and frankly it is very disconcerting. I have told them they are using "bait and switch" advertising abd billing practices that are illegal and unethical. HELP FTC

I've been with Sprint for 7 years and have been charged the $7.99 every month since. I wasn't sure what the charge was for, my fault, but I then asked Sprint to remove it and they said they can only remove it IF I set up my account for auto pay. So it seems they are forcing me to pay for something I don't want or need since they will remove it IF I set up auto pay?

I've been with Sprint for less than 2 weeks and I'm cancelling service with then tomorrow under their 30 day cancellation policy and returning my 2 phones and will pay their ridiculous 25.00 per phone restocking fee, complete ripoff. You can cancel service within 30 days but if you don't return the phones you're stuck with them! Their administrative procedures are horrible. I've called Sprint more times in the last 10 days than I've ever called my previous provider in 10 years. Everytime i call i get connected to overseas where i cant really understand what they're saying anyway. Called them initially to get , was quoted 20 per line for 2 lines, one phone free, the other for 10.00 per month x 24 months. Get first bill and it indicated one line 30.00 the other 20.00 and two phones 10.00 per month. Called and said i was promised one phone free. Finally gave me a credit of 240.00 on my account. They weren't able to just delete the one phone payment from the system. So now after intial charges including fees, taxes etc my first bill was texted me eventhough i have a credit of plus 70.00. Called was told it was a system mistake that i got a text and to disregard. Called and complained that i was promised 20.00 per line but am being charged 30.00 for one and 20.00 for the other. Was told the promotion was over eventhough it's still advertised on their website as i write this. Was also told if i enrollef in auto pay that id get 5.00 discount per line which has NOT relected on my plan. Saw an ASL Charge of 7.99 that i was NOT told about when i signed up! I have a good credit score too. Then received a letter saying they could not offer the terms i requested after my service already started!! So im basically told one thing initially then they switch and bait you. Called and asked about the letter and was told to disregard it but in reality they tried to convince me i was ok but failed to acknowledge the ASL changed the game plan. Very deceptive. No wonder they're rated behind verizon, tmobile and AT&T. I don't want anything to do with them, ever gain.

Wonder where can I filed my refund from sprint and those over charges ?
Thanks

I was just looking at my bill and I saw this. Yesterday I went into the Sprint store where I just bought my new iPhone 7 and start a new plan with them and complain because my service was so slow it was unusable you know I have the unlimited plan. He talked me into keeping the phone and said he would take off the $30 Activation fee. When I called customer service today I did not have any record of this. I also found out that I got billed for two months on my first payment coming up and they didn't tell me anything about this.

I joined spent about two weeks ago and I've had nothing but problems and I was trying to find out why my bill was twice the size it was supposed to be and I came upon this charge. There's nothing in any of the documents that they emailed me, that they couldn't even give me a copy, and they didn't tell me that they're going to charge me this and also charge me for two months on the first bill.

I upgraded my phone in dec. For three years I had been asking sprint to change my billing date to accommodate my payment and I was assured that they were doing so. I had been paying up to 156.00 a month for two phone.
No one told me about a prorate charge when someone purchases a phone then activates it later. I had paid my bill prior to the purchase and was at a zero balance when i upgraded. they said I owed a certain amount of money and when I ask and rechecked the balance they were off by 30.00 resulting in not only charging me the 30.00 activation fee but an additional 36. for something else. The representative said there was no activation fee or but charged me 30.00 and 44.00 in taxes after a down payment of 100.00. Could anyone share what the freedom plan means to them.. Having in my four years with company I was never charged for an international fee and they now put a charge there? Has anyone else been charged. When asked to clarify this with the supervisor calmly I was put on hold three times told they were checking something and they never got back even disconnecting. Additonally it seems that they change prices for each individual becaue when I went online to see my account one day it offered item certain price then the next day it offered another higher price.

I found this Spending LImit Program charge on our bill today. I called twice and was supposed to be transfered to a supervisor. Each time, I held for 20 mins before I had to disconnect. I just filed a complaint with the FCC. If every does the same, it will bring light to this issue. SPrint has 30 days to resspond and since this was an issue between SPrint and the FCC previously, I am sure our concerns will be addressed. But only if we all speak out. Go to FCC.com and file a complaint.

I signed up for Sprint at Best Buy on Jan 10. Today, I receive a letter from Sprint dated 1/18 that, "after carefully reviewing your application, we are sorry to advise you that we cannot offer you the terms you requested at this time." It goes on to say that they are "able" to offer me wireless service under the Sprint Account Spending Limit (ASL) program with a predetermined $150 monthly spending amount. AND, an additional $7.99 monthly participation fee. The fee can be waived if enrolled with AutoPay and EBill. I was automatically signed up for EBill when I signed up with Sprint (I was not given a choice) but I refuse to sign up for AutoPay because they are forcing me to. I called them twice today when I received the letter (16 days after signing up) asking what it was all about. Basically told me that it was because I have bad credit (741 is the score listed on the letter for me). Argued and argued with the customer care person that they will be getting $96 in a year from me for no reason and that they did not notify me until way too late for me to go with another carrier. She just kept repeating the same thing. Told her I was filing a complaint. She transferred me back to the main line (after being on hold forever). Finally got to another live person and she basically told me the same thing-that unless you sign up for both of those things, the $7.99 per month charge will not be removed. I AM FURIOUS!!! It isn't even the amount that makes me so mad, it is the fact that they tell you when it is too late to not go with Sprint or pay huge early termination fees. I will be filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the FCC and the FTC!

I was never told about the charge either. I am not a new customer, I only separated one line from our original account. They had to do the credit verification. I got the letter from Sprint also with the credit score and yet they still put this charge on my account. I have disputed it because it was not disclosed at any point. My credit is excellent and I do not plan on asking for a review. Instead I will be contacting everyone I know with Sprint to let them know they are cramming bills and it appears to have been happening for a very long time now. It continues in 2017. I am going to another carrier TODAY! The FTC will be notified of their continued failure to disclose. I asked specifically for the monthly charges... they offered the automatic payment to lower my monthly bill by 5.00. I declined. Also, I was told after 4 hours of transfers to various departments and supervisors whom by the way are quoting the same inaccurate information to folks... at least they did to me, all the data was false and at no time ever did anyone mention this ASL. Why in the world would it be ok to charge someone an extra 7.99 a month just so they could have a spending limit? Just make the limit 0.00 and remove the charge. Of course, they won't do that because it is easy revenue. Shame on you Sprint. You are taking advantage of all your customers. That's like the electric company saying 'You can have xx.xx amount of dollars a month over your spending limit for electricity and if you don't want this, then you can only use x amount of dollars for your electric bill and we will cut you off. Oh, but if you are on autopay, we won't charge you this fee and if your payment is returned, you will be charged even more for the payment not being available in that account in addition to fees you will owe to your bank.' How can you even charge for a spending limit - which sounds like extending credit - on a monthly basis and still charge a late fee if not paid on the day of the due date????? Seems like double jeopardy to me. I plan on calling all the news outlets, tv news station, FTC, PUC all and everyone I know to make sure everyone is aware of the shameful practices of this company. I know they are for profit, it should be done fairly. SPRINT IS CRAMMING BILLS, USING DOUBLE TALK FOR TACTICS TO CHARGE FOLKS WITH FEES THAT ARE UNFAIR AND WITHOUT DISCLOSURE. MOST PEOPLE DON'T LOOK AT THEIR BILL CLOSELY AND JUST TRUST THE COMPANY. BEWARE! BEWARE! YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED!

Is there reimbursements for these fees, and if so, how do I sign up? I have been charged for years and didn't know before hand.

I went into a different sprint location yesterday trying to see what deal i could get on a ipad and when they checked my account to see how they would be able to give me the best deal, i was informed that my account is a business account and it has been for the last four years and i never asked for or even had a business to open up a business account. WHAT SHOULD I DO, someone please help

Would like to know if there is a way to get these fees reimbursed. I was not told what these fees are when I switched my lines to Sprint, and I actually have spoken to several customer service reps over the last 24 months and was never told anything. I did not receive a letter in the mail either telling me what this fee is with a description. I have 4 lines and am being charged $7.99 per line, that is $767 in the last two years. I was not told about this charge, nor did I agree to it in any way - If anyone knows, please let me know

Im still being charged it ....with a credit in acvount last 5 plus months and good credit.

ETC is just as bad as Sprint, I would have thought they, the FTC would have deemed this pratice unethical but no, just gangsterd millions from Sprint for themselves and told Sprint "You have to let people know when you are taking advantage of them"

I know for a fact that no one told me about the spending limit even when I asked what it was i was told its just a charge for opening a phone account for the first time and that after a year it would be removed. Years later and I still get charged and they refused to explain what it was to begin with. This little charge brings my phone plan above the cost I told them I wanted to pay monthly. Which also happens to be about the same price friends of mine pay for having more than one phone line and mine has limited talk time, unlimited data and text not a good deal to me.

This is exactly what I'm currently dealing with. Sprint gave me a spending limit after the fact. I would of never switched had I know ! They gave me a spending limit of $300 and a phone bill of $250 why would I accept those terms if I knew they were so close? Now I incurred additional activation fees(I was told would be taking care of) put me overt the limit and turns me off and now each month I'm turned off Bc the fee puts me over. I've been fighting with them for 7 months. They turned my service off and. Ow limited my acces to my bills online because I threaten to go to the bbb.

They tricked me into "saving me some money" with this without explaining to me the details. Tried to get me to do auto pay... I don't play these games. After a half hour of arguing with a mouthy rep, I got the monthly charges dropped without having to sign up for auto pay. That's how I roll.

My Sprint data plan incfeased by $10.00, $7.99 charge afded withkut notice and great credit, charged for S7 and I own the S6, hotspit device automatically connected and used 2.59 over data plan ( I never use more than 1out of 3G a mo., plus more. My bill keeps rising the last 5 mo. Stores, online, and phone call help produce zero results. What next?

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